Domestic Workers The Worst Hit At Covid Times

Improving Working Conditions of Workers During Covid Needed

Covid 19 pandemic did not spare anyone and everyone from the rich to the poor was hit hard. However, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in their latest report points out that domestic workers were among the hardest hit by the pandemic.

The domestic workers lost more jobs and working hours than other sectors, said the ILO in their report ‘Making Decent Work a Reality for Domestic Workers’.

The ILO report shows that the 75.6 million domestic workers suffered significantly. The report states that job losses among domestic workers ranged from five to twenty per cent in most European countries, South Africa and Canada at the height of Covid 19 crisis.


Meanwhile, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder pointed out that the crisis highlighted the urgent need to formalise domestic work to ensure access to decent work, “starting with the extension and implementation of labour and social security laws to all workers.”


The report makes it clear that Covid 19 pandemic worsened working conditions that were already very poor. The workers were more vulnerable because of long-standing gaps in labour and social protection. The pandemic, no doubt, affected more than 60 million domestic workers in the informal economy, the report said.

The ILO points out that the number of workers in the second quarter of 2020 decreased by 5–20 per cent in most European countries because of the pandemic. Apart from this, the numbers came down by about 50 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean and by 70 per cent in Peru. The report takes note that workers in the domestic sector lost the highest jobs in informal employment than those observed for all workers in the domestic sector and systematically higher than for other employees.


Asia and Pacific region forms the world’s largest employers of workers in this sector, having 50 per cent of all the workers in this area in the world. The Americas comes next in line, employing 23 per cent of all workers. Europe and Central Asia region employs the smallest number of all workers.

Further, the report says that domestic work represents the largest share of employees in the Arab States (14.8 per cent). Latin America and the Caribbean (8.4 per cent) come behind the Arabian States. When Africa has 7.3 per cent share of domestic workers, Asia and the Pacific comes with 4.6 per cent. Meanwhile, domestic work represents only one per cent of employees in Central Asia and Europe.


Woman forms the majority with 76.2 per cent of workers in this sector. They account for 4.5 per cent of female employment worldwide or 8.8 per cent of female employees. In the Arab states, female workers represent one third of employment and 11.3 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Meanwhile, men only make up about one quarter of the sector. They represent only 0.9 per cent of overall male employment. It is still the Arab states that employ men in large numbers (23.2 per cent). While Southern Asia has 21.8 per cent male workers, Eastern Asia has 19.1 per cent and sub-Saharan Africa 14.2 per cent. In the Arab states, men outnumber women in this sector.


The ILO says that the adoption of the landmark Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189)  report a decade ago was hailed as a breakthrough for millions of workers in this sector. Despite this, about 36 per cent of the domestic workers remain excluded from labour laws, the report notes. This only points to the urgent need to close legal gaps, especially in Asia, Pacific and Arab States, where the legal gaps are largest.

The report points out that most of the people working in this field in Asia, Arab States and the Pacific remain excluded from the scope of labour law. They are either excluded or under covered with respect to provisions on wages, working time and maternity protection than other employees. On the other hand, domestic workers in the Europe and Americas are all covered.

The report also mentioned that only one-in-five (about 18.8 per cent) enjoy effective, employment related, and social protection coverage.

The ILO said that domestic workers in one third of the countries reviewed, either do not enjoy equal rights with respect to a minimum wage (9.3 per cent) or do not enjoy minimum wage coverage at all (22.2 per cent. It said that about 41 million domestic workers have no statutory minimum wage.  It also said that about 28 per cent of countries impose no limits on normal weekly hours of work. Fourteen per cent of countries provide no legal right to weekly rest and 11 per cent provide no legal right to paid annual leave, the report says.


Of all the workers in this sector, about 61.4 million are in informal employment. This means that they have no access to social or labour protections. The share of informal employment among workers in the domestic sector is twice that of other employees.


The ILO report says that the workers in the domestic sector the world over are better organised today and they defend their views and interests.

However, the report notes down the following for a better world for domestic workers

  • Effective access to rights and protections includes access to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining and adequate remuneration. This requires closing legal and implementation
  • Legal recognition of workers in the domestic sector as workers is a prerequisite for affording them rights and protection and the first step towards formalizing domestic work.
  • Governments should engage with social partners to fix an appropriate minimum wage level that accounts for the specificities of the sector.
  • The scope of social security laws needs to be extended to include workers in the domestic sector.
  • They must be covered by labour, social security and OSH laws, as well as equality and non-discrimination laws.


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